Passion . . . with a Plan!
Histovet Surgical Pathology is a private veterinary diagnostic laboratory based in Guelph, Ontario. We interpret tissue biopsies from sick dogs, cats, and other pets from veterinary clinics across Canada and in six foreign countries. We started 38 years ago with a microscope and a typewriter - and a commitment to be the gold standard for accuracy, clarity, thoroughness, and timeliness in the interpretation of surgical biopsy samples. In a business environment in which mission statements and quality policies often promise a lot more than the customer actually receives, we were absolutely committed to being different. We realized right from the start that just making great diagnoses would not be enough to create and maintain an "image of excellence" that would set us apart from the competition.
The entire package from sample pickup to telephone answering, case reporting and database management all had to be excellent so that no link in the chain detracted from the quality of the entire business. In fact, client surveys repeatedly told us that, just as consumers assume that all carpenters know how to hit a nail, veterinarians implicitly assume that any properly trained pathologist can make accurate diagnoses. The difference between an adequate diagnosis and an exceptional diagnosis is generally not even perceptible to them. What is perceptible, however, are all of the elements surrounding and supporting those diagnoses. We decided right from the very beginning that all elements of the business needed to achieve the same level of excellence as the diagnoses, and that no part of that support system was less important than the diagnostic core.
Faced with the pressure for continued expansion, we deliberately rejected the notion that the most tangible indicator of success is growth. We decided that our commitment to quality was best served by remaining small and therefore in absolute control of our process and output. In fact, before and after that pivotal decision, almost all of the most important decisions in our "journey of quality" have been guided by this single and unwavering commitment to excellence. The quality journey has spanned almost 40 years, but it seems like only yesterday that we were just starting out.
In the Beginning . . . a microscope, a typewriter, a telephone, and a mailman.
- 5-10 cases per day, dictated to a tape recorder and later transcribed with a typewriter and carbon paper;
- reports are usually about 100 words, delivered by mail, meeting the industry standard for a two-week turnaround time.
The Middle Ages . . . a computer, a database, a fax machine and a courier!
- the meteoric rise of the personal computer is a revolution for small businesses;
- we acquire a computer database capable of producing, storing, sorting and retrieving full text reports. This signaled a revolution in case tracking and was a huge step in our pursuit of absolute control over our key processes;
- our cases were shipped by courier (at our expense, so we could choose the courier and manage the relationship!) and reported by fax, reducing our "door to door" turnaround time from two weeks to four days;
- we take our beloved corporate logo (which we designed ourselves) to a professional graphic artist to "touch up". He laughed, quickly produced a logo infinitely better, and taught us a lesson: just because we are very good at what we do does not mean we are good at everything!
- we start to slowly assemble a group of subcontractors who share our passion for perfection and accept our mission statement as their own!
- we win a Guelph Quality Award for Small Business, patterned after the Canada Awards for Excellence. This was pivotal, signaling a psychological and tangible transition from a passionate hobby to a real business;
- we achieve certification to ISO 9002:1994, the first veterinary laboratory in the world to do so.
The 21st Century . . . a communication revolution shrinks the world!
- the emergence of large veterinary specialty hospitals represents a dramatic increase in client expectations for diagnostic speed and sophistication;
- we acquire voice recognition software to permit continued growth without compromising the personal touch;
- portable wireless technology allows us to do cases and control operations from anywhere in the world;
- sophisticated telecommunications make serving overseas markets feasible, and we expand into the U.S., Bermuda, Singapore, Malaysia and Hong Kong;
- we upgrade our quality management system to meet the certification standards for ISO 9001:2000 and later ISO 9001:2008;
- we stumble upon the perfect cohort for our small but absolutely critical staffing needs: University students planning a career as veterinarians who spend a year with us to gain experience and improve their academic resumes. Our first employee from this cohort approaches us out of the blue; since then, there has been nothing accidental about our pursuit of these smart, passionate, and absolutely committed young people;
- we decide to control growth, accepting as new clients only those who we believe appreciate and share our commitment to excellence;
- we receive a gold Canada Award for Excellence (Customer Service) in 2007, the smallest company ever to receive such recognition. Small but mighty! in 2010, a repeat performance: a second gold Canada Award for Excellence (Customer Service)!
- In 2013, we receive the Order of Excellence from Excellence Canada, the highest business award in the country!